San Jose Japantown Landmarks

Historic Markers – the Benches

Throughout Japantown are engraved granite benches that provide information about the historic significance of each site. They were designed and installed as a result of SB 307, a California Senate bill intended to preserve the Japanese-American culture in California’s three remaining Japantowns. Read them all to get a feel for what life was back then.


Ikoi No Ba

There are many other landmarks sprinkled throughout Japantown.  Five distinctly different resting areas were designed to represent core parts of Japanese-American history: internment, festivities, farming, immigration, and culture.  The Ikoi no Ba are peaceful places to stop, relax, and reflect on the Japanese American history and culture.


5th and Jackson Landmarks

The intersection of North Fifth and Jackson Streets is home to three key landmarks.  The first is the Issei Voices, a 36 foot horizontal granite monument, that echoes the words and phrases of the first generation Issei pioneers who instilled deep, binding values and traditions in the second generation of Nisei.  On the top of the monument is a timeline of historic milestones in JA history.

Nikkei Lantern

Nikkei Lantern

The Issei Pioneer stone, an 11,000 pound granite rock from Inujima Island, made the arduous voyage across the Pacific.  This route symbolizes the journey of the Issei immigrants a century ago.  The Issei Stone is a gift from San Jose’s Sister City, Okayama, Japan.  Its strength and durability are a permanent tribute to the courage and perseverance of the Issei pioneers who settled in San Jose’s Japantown.

The Nikkei Lantern is best viewed in the darkness of the night.  Guiding lights along the length of the lantern reflect the optimism of the Nikkei generations, ending at the top with a torch, symbolizing eternal hope.  Etched in the bend of the lantern is ‘February 19, 1942’, the date Executive Order 9066 was signed.  This bend symbolizes the profound stress and dislocations imposed upon Japanese Americans during internment.

Each landmark represents the strong community that resides within Japantown today; some of them were even created by locals such as Ken Matsumoto of ArtObject Gallery.

Issei Voices

Issei Voices

Issei Pioneer Stone

Issei Pioneer Stone


Civil Liberties Monument

Outside of the Issei Memorial Building is the Civil Liberties Monument.  This monument complements the Internment Ikoi no Ba at the Issei Memorial Building.  It is one of the three monuments commemorating the only three Japantowns remaining in the United States.  The three sides of the monument depict the history and experiences common to all three Japantowns and Japanese-Americans: Immigration and Settlement, World War II Internment, and Celebration of Festivals. Each landmark honors a specific part of the Japanese-American history, and brings the current JA community closer together.

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The NCI Program

The Nikkei Community Internship is an eight-week program designed to promote awareness of the three remaining Japantowns and to get youth more involved in the Japanese-American community. The program originated in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The San Jose NCI program is structured into themed weeks. Each week, the interns are placed with a different supervisor who sets up interviews with community leaders and members. Depending on the week, interns may also volunteer at different community-based organizations, such as Yu-Ai Kai or Lotus Preschool.

One day of the week is reserved for leadership training, during which all of the Norcal interns gather for workshops and meetings with community leaders. Interns attend three statewide retreats, one in each Japantown, during which both the Southern California and Northern California interns meet and work together.

NCI has helped me understand how I can use my personal skill set to make a difference in the community.
— Isaac Gaton, NCI Intern 2015
NCI has been one of the best experiences we’ve had. We’ve had a lot of fun throughout this internship, but more importantly, we’ve come to realize that San Jose Japantown is a place we can come back to and call home.
— Kyle Ichikawa and Alex Lim, NCI Interns 2011
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Japantown Prepared!

Japantown Prepared! is an all-volunteer CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) group. It was formed in 2011 after Japan's Fukushima earthquake and tsunami disaster.

Our mission is to prepare San Jose's Japantown for major disasters. The businesses, organizations, churches, and residents of Japantown work together to help each other out.

We train, communicate, and collaborate to prepare for disasters of all kinds. We have collected and are storing emergency reserve supplies within our district. We serve our community to minimize loss of life, injuries, and property damage.